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Ken Ude

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Mayor Ken Ude will be the featured speaker for the San Marino City Club’s January meeting.

Ken Ude, who last month took over as the community’s mayor for a year, will be the featured speaker for the San Marino City Club’s first meeting of 2021 on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 7 p.m.
Ude will speak about the state of the city and update the club on the status of many of the key projects and issues currently facing San Marino.
A 35-year resident of the community, Ude was elected to the City Council in November 2017 after running on the premise that “San Marino is a $30 million business and should be run like one.” Professionally, Ude was CEO of a number of private equity-backed companies in a variety of industries, ranging from a race car driving school to women’s cosmetics to PODS portable storage.
More recently, he was director of USC’s Family Business Program, which led him into consulting with family-owned businesses as they grow their market and plan for generational transitions. His focus on the council has been on financial, operational and capital improvements.
Ude is a graduate of USC, where he earned his undergraduate degree, Master of Business Administration degree and a master’s in public relations. Ken and his wife,

Ken Ude is hoping to figure out what’s going on with the Stoneman School building the same way the city figured out how to approach the San Marino Center last year.
The new mayor outlined this among other goals and highlights at his State of the City address this week, an event held virtually on account of the coronavirus pandemic. Ude reiterated that his vote of confidence on the renovation of the San Marino Center came by way of the task force that solicited the community’s input before crafting its recommended model.
Answering the question of the Stoneman building was part of the platform that got Ude elected in 2017.

San Marino City Council Member Susan Jakubowski (from left), Council Member Steve Talt, Mayor Dr. Steve Huang, Vice Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey and Council Member Ken Ude listen to feedback from residents at the Crowell Public Library, July 26. Skye Hannah Photo

The San Marino City Council unanimously voted to continue reserving $8 million in Metro 710 N project funds for improvements to the Atlantic Boulevard/Huntington Drive/Los Robles Avenue/Garfield intersection with public input and voted 3-2 to move forward with considering $6 million in funding for Huntington Drive improvements specifically as it relates to school areas. The meeting was held July 26 at the Crowell Public Library.

The funds are part of $32 million reserved for San Marino of Measure R transportation sales tax funds, set for placeholder projects. Five projects were presented for consideration.

For Project 1 (intersection improvements to Huntington Drive, $12 million), the council rejected the project and funding for three of the four intersections ($4 million) and moved ahead with the fourth intersection, Atlantic Boulevard/Huntington Drive/Los Robles Avenue/Garfield Avenue, ($8 million). Council Member Steve Talt added an amendment that public input be included into the refinement of the proposals, which are set to come back from city staff in September.

For Project 2 (Huntington Drive improvements, $6 million), the council voted 3-2 to continue holding the funds specifically as they relate to school areas and have city staff return to the council with refined and clarified proposals in September.

Project 4 (Huntington Drive signal synchronization, $7 million) was rejected 3-1 at the July 10 meeting.

There were some initial confusion on the motions as city staff noted that there was a clash of motions from the July 10 meeting. At the time, the council voted 3-1 to direct city manager to direct Metro that the city was unwilling to accept any funds other than those that benefit projects around the schools on Huntington Drive. With the unanimous massing of Project 1’s motion on July 26, that July 10 motion was superseded.

When asked for further clarification by city staff on the motions, Vice Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey shared a sense of exasperation. She said the city was working to be open and transparent, and she was concerned the council was at risk of being “worn down” by additional clarity questions. She noted that the July 10 meeting was packed and residents “heard us loud and clear.”

“Every time, the public comes out, they spend their time, they spend their energy and then we’re left with ‘oh, but there’s still a question,’” said Shepherd Romey. “No, no, no. This has to stop.”

Council Member Steve Talt agreed with Shepherd Romey.

“What is clear we’re moving forward with taking a further look at Atlantic and we’re moving forward on looking at congestions around school sites,” said Talt. “That is clear. We’ve rejected everything else.”

In order to keep the record clean, City Attorney Stephanie Cao recommended the council motion to vacate the July 10 motion in regards to rejecting all funds except for school projects and move forward with the consideration of $8 million for Atlantic Boulevard/Huntington Drive/Los Robles Avenue/Garfield intersection with public input. Council Members Talt, Ken Ude and Susan Jakubowski voted in favor with Mayor Dr. Steven Huang and Vice Mayor Romey voted against.

The vacating of the July 10 motion left Project 3 (Sierra Madre Boulevard improvements, $4 million) and Project 5 (San Gabriel Boulevard signal synchronization, $3 million) with no approved motion from council, according to City Manager Dr. Marcella Marlowe.

In a letter by Huang sent to Metro Senior Executive Officer Abdollah Ansari sent July 30 and provided to the Tribune by Marlowe, Huang said that “based on the Council’s discussion at both meetings” he communicated that the city declined the projects and funding for Project 3 and 5.

He noted in the letter that in total, San Marino is requesting $14 million for Projects 1 and 2, and declining the remaining $18 million.

San Marino City Councilman Ken Ude was pushing for the elimination of several programs in the Recreation Department. Ude is now co-chair of the newly created Blue Ribbon Committee. Photo by Steve Whitmore

The San Marino City Council Wednesday night prevented the shuttering of the Recreation Department after scores of supporters that emotionally addressed the council, saying it’s the soul of the community.

It was Mayor Steve Talt who finally halted any discussion of shutting down the recreation department programs that include daycare, preschool, senior events, and the July 4th festivities, to name just a few of the activities offered by the department.

“It would break my heart (to shut down) the Recreation Department,” Talt said. ‘I think if we do that, we lose part of our soul.”

Talt recommended a blue-ribbon committee be formed and co-chaired by him and Councilman Ken Ude. The committee would also have five community members. Also, the committee will be able to spend up to $30,000, if needed, for a consultant to help in re-envisioning the department.

The blue-ribbon committee was unanimously approved by council, 5-0.

The committee will be formed in the next 10 days and will present its final report during a joint meeting with the School District Sept. 12.

Gretchen Shepherd Romey, Susan Jakubowski and Calvin Lo, three of the six announced candidates for three open seats on the San Marino City Council at the November, 2017 election, fired the first salvos of the campaign season at open houses on Sunday, June 25.

Jakubowski and Lo were hosted by Alice & Paul Su at their home on Shenandoah and Shepherd Romey booked the familiar surroundings of the Hill Harbison House given her 17 years as a Girl Scout volunteer.

Public safety was a common theme on the scorching hot afternoon as each candidate addressed a rise in local home burglaries and other crimes.

“I am shocked and angry,” said Lo, declaring that San Marino is “facing an invasion” of criminal activity. Lo proposed a series of community forums and safety meetings, increased installation of surveillance cameras and a renaissance of the Neighborhood Watch program as possible solutions.

Shepherd Romey was equally alarmed by the increase in crime.

“When my family moved here over 20 years ago, San Marino had long been considered extremely safe,” she said. “The rapid escalation in criminal activity over the last year is cause for alarm.

She also proposed a revival of Neighborhood Watch programs “for our community’s protection.”

MORE PHOTOS FROM SHEPHERD ROMEY’S EVENT

Jakubowski urged the city to immediately fill open spots on the San Marino Police Dept. and proposed “mid-day citizen visual patrols” which she said have “had great success as an extra set of eyes and ears in other cities.”

Jakubowski also proposed the creation of a new five-year strategic plan for the city, calling it a “road map ranking specific issues to be addressed, timelines to get there and the allocation of human and capital resources. Goals we hope to achieve and reporting points will be included in this transparent plan.”

Lo said he would fight for the “preservation of San Marino’s heritage,” and also encouraged community involvement in city affairs.

MORE PHOTOS FROM JAKUBOWSKI AND LO’S EVENT

Shepherd Romey struck a similar tone, pointing out that the city has already granted 13 demolition permits for 2017 while noting that the previous high for any prior year is sixteen, a mark that seems to be in danger of falling. She also addressed the city’s aging streets and infrastructure.

Jakubowski noted that area as well and also addressed the city’s quandary of funding the CalPERS retirement system.

Dr. Hai Sou Chen held his campaign kick-off event on Sunday, July 2 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the home of former Mayor Dr. Matthew Lin. Coverage of that event will be in the July 7 edition of The Tribune.

Scott Kwong has not yet scheduled a campaign kick-off event. His campaign can be reached at kwong4citycouncil@gmail.com.

Ken Ude told The Tribune that his campaign is in the process of organizing a series of town hall meetings, candidate receptions and our team-building event in August. His campaign can be reached at info@kenudeforsanmarino.com.

A filing period for candidates with the San Marino City Clerk begins on July 17 and ends on August 11.

The filing period will likely be extended to August 16, as incumbents Dr. Richard Sun, Richard Ward and Dr. Allan Yung have not yet expressed their intention to make a declaration of candidacy.

The election will be held on Tuesday, November 7.

Gretchen Shepherd Romey has told The Tribune that she is a candidate in the race to fill three seats on the five-member San Marino City Council at the November, 2017 election.

Shepherd Romey – a lawyer – joins Susan Jakubowski, Calvin Lo, Dr. Hai Sou Chen, Scott Kwong and Ken Ude as the sixth declared candidate. A one-month candidate-filing period with the county registrar begins on July 18.

She explained that the idea to run for a seat on the city council developed about a year ago after meetings with a group of younger women community leaders, which were organized by San Marino’s first and second female mayors Rary Simmons and Suzy Crowell.

“They felt there was a need after about 10 years with no female presence on the council; that they needed to pass the torch to a new generation,” Shepherd Romey stated.

After a year of attending council meetings and conversations with the community, Shepherd Romey has identified preservation of historically significant homes—which she referred to as a “movement”—as her top priority.

“I’m running for city council to preserve and protect San Marino,” she said.

“As a city council member, I will strive to rein in this rapid redevelopment by strengthening existing building codes and enforcement,” Shepherd Romey noted, expressing her support for a new historic preservation ordinance.

Shepherd Romey shared her preservation experience with The Tribune.

“Over the past 17 years, I have had hands-on experience in the community’s efforts to preserve the historic Hill Harbison House,” she said. “I learned that modernization and improvements can be successfully accomplished while preserving historic structures along with the surrounding mature landscape and trees.”

Crime reduction is also a top priority in Shepherd Romey’s campaign platform.

She explained, “When I moved here over 20 years ago, San Marino had long been considered an extremely safe community. The recent spike in criminal activity is cause for alarm.”

“If elected, I plan to start a community crime prevention program with a goal of educating all residents and empowering them with information and strategies to protect their families against burglaries and home invasions, as well as financial exploitation,” she stated, noting the importance of a partnership with local law enforcement to revive San Marino’s neighborhood watch program.

Shepherd Romey has her eye on the city’s finances as well.

A firm supporter of the recommendations submitted by the citizen advisory group of the council’s Ad Hoc Committee, which reviewed the city’s administration and parks and public works departments, she feels full implementation would result in savings, increased productivity and financial responsibility for the city.

“Having served on executive boards of numerous nonprofit organizations that have monthly financial reports, I believes this method of reporting and analysis will increase the city’s financial responsibility to stay at or below budget and lead to greater financial transparency,” she added in her call for departmental monthly financial reports.

Savings resulting from a more financially responsible approach should go straight toward financing deferred infrastructure maintenance, she argued.

“I want to bring those matters to the forefront, and work on city council toward fully funding payments on those [infrastructure] liabilities annually, and directing any budget savings to go directly to payoff those liabilities,” she said.

Shepherd Romey earned her juris doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. Since moving to San Marino with her husband Michael, also an attorney, and children, Morgan and Turner, Shepherd Romey has played an active role in National Charity League, National Charity League Juniors, San Marino Garden Club, the Hill-Harbison House, San Marino Junior Alliance, San Marino Service Unit of Girl Scouts of America, and the Huntington Middle School and Valentine Elementary School PTAs. She is also a docent and educational facilitator at The Huntington Library.

“After a career as an attorney, and since moving to San Marino in 1996, I have been continuously active volunteering and leading many local civic, charitable, and educational organizations. Those two decades of community experience have given me a deep appreciation of our city and its residents, as well as a strong commitment to public service. If elected to City Council, such knowledge and experience will enable me to make an even greater impact for the betterment of our city,” she added.

To learn more about Shepherd Romey’s campaign, visit gretchenshepherdromeyforsanmarino.com. A campaign kick-off event will be held at the Hill Harbison House, 1841 Alhambra Rd., San Marino on Sunday, June 25 from 3 to 5 p.m.

Longtime San Marino resident and businessman Ken Ude has told The Tribune he is declaring his candidacy in the race to fill three seats on the five-member San Marino City Council at the November, 2017 election.

Ude joins Susan Jakubowski, Calvin Lo, Dr. Hai-Sou Chen and Scott Kwong as the five declared candidates thus far. A one-month candidate filing period with the county registrar begins on July 18.

“The City of San Marino is a $24 million business and it needs to be run like one,” said Ude. “A strong business has a strategic plan, annual financial and operating goals, reporting processes for accountability and transparency, and makes data-driven decisions with the appropriate amount of risk. I think our city should have the same operating and financial disciplines. It does not.”

Ude said he has been encouraged to run for a seat on the city council “by a number of very dedicated residents who are concerned about a number of the big issues facing the city.”

“The root cause of many of the issues are financial and leadership in nature,” he said. “There are also some important issues that cut into the fabric of our community. The un-funded pension liability and deferred maintenance of our aging infrastructure are huge and must be fully understood and planned for. Not having a solid strategic plan is like driving a boat without a rudder. The hiring of a strong city manager is also crucial. Without these two anchors, decision-making is difficult and burdensome on the city council to vote their personal opinions rather than following the agreed upon plan. I think my 30-plus years of running businesses, executing the plan and understanding the numbers will be an asset to the council and to the city.”

Ude also said he believes that most residents chose to live in San Marino “for the community feel, the look of the neighborhoods and the school system.”

“And I want to protect this city,” he said. “We need to preserve what makes San Marino so special. Our neighborhoods are wonderful. The schools, Little League program and our small-town traditions like the acknowledgement of Memorial Day and the 4th of July parade help to make San Marino a premiere residential community. I get concerned about mansionization and the number of tear-downs that are rebuilt and immediately go on the market. So does seeing San Marino residential homes on the balance sheet of investment companies.”

Ude’s business career began with Rain Bird Sprinkler Manufacturing Corp. in the 1970s. He then had the opportunity to run six different private equity-backed mid-sized companies. “Most of the companies I ran were turn-around situations where we had to look hard at cutting operating expenses and improving our efficiencies,” he said. “The problem with the city is that we can’t increase revenues, so we need to look hard at expenses and how we do things. I would surmise there is a 15 to 20 percent cost savings in the city budget that could be realized by looking differently at how we staff and deliver our services.”

Cathy and Ken Ude moved to San Marino in 1986 so that their three daughters – Carolyn, Kristen and Allison – could attend San Marino schools. The Udes were active in youth sports programs and activities including AYSO, San Marino National Little League and the San Marino Schools Foundation. He was San Marino National Little League’s softball commissioner for 3 years and coached for six.

In 1999, Ude served as chairman of the Schools Foundation’s Annual Campaign and invented the now-famous yard sign program. He also served as President of the Foundation of San Marino Community Church, where he led a record-setting annual campaign drive.

“If elected, I believe I would be the first person with operating business experience to be a member of the city council since Bob Twist in 2004,” Ude said.

Ude earned his MBA and a Masters in Public Relations from the University of Southern California, where he currently runs the USC Marshall Family Business Program. Ude is managing director of The Board Group, an organization that creates and serves on advisory boards for small to mid-sized, privately held companies.

The San Marino City Council will hold its next two regularly scheduled elections—in November of 2017 and 2019—as planned, and transition to even-numbered years in November of 2022.

The council’s decision will not extend the terms of any of its sitting members; however, council members elected in 2017 and 2019 will serve five-year terms.

Council Members Steve Talt and Steven Huang, both of whom were elected in 2015, are eligible to run for reelection in 2019, which would result in a five-year second term for both men.

The unanimous decision was in response to a new state law, which prohibits cities and other political subdivisions from holding their elections on dates not concurrent with statewide elections, if holding elections on non-concurrent dates previously resulted in “a significant decrease in voter turnout.” Significant decrease in voter turnout is described as voter turnout at least 25 percent less than the average voter turnout for the previous four statewide general elections.

Though the council unanimously approved the change, Talt was not initially on board to decide the matter at the Dec. 14 council meeting.

“To rush in and do something when indeed we don’t need to do something until Jan. 1, 2018 may be ill-advised at this point,” said Talt, stating that the city should hold elections in Nov. 2017 and Nov. 2019 before transitioning to even-numbered years. “I’m personally not convinced that turnout is necessarily all the time greater,” he noted, referring to voter turnout in November, a general election, compared to voter turnout in June, a primary election.

“There are also problems with having our electorate lose sight as to our city council election. Battling against a presidential election can be very difficult. There’s a lot of noise out there,” Talt added. “I’m not convinced we have adequate research at this point to ascertain what would be the best,” he summarized, requesting more research in regards to potential cost savings related to the June and November options.

“I think its better if we make that decision right now, then we could let the voters decide,” Huang countered. “I think the purpose for making this change is to increase voter participation, so I think November is better than June.”

Huang also asked Talt to “bear in mind [that] in June it might be vacation time.”

Talt eventually conceded, “If our elder statesmen want to move forward, I’m more than happy to.”

Mayor Richard Sun and Council Member Allan Yung both indicated their intentions to act on the matter that evening.

“Between June and November, November would be the one that I would prefer,” Sun said, noting that the “the perception is better.”

“The earlier we make the decision the more time they have to prepare themselves,” Sun added, referring to residents interested in running for one of three open seats in Nov., 2017.

Comments made during the public comments portion of the meeting confirmed Sun’s statement.

“I’m seriously looking at running next year and having that clarity would help,” said San Marino resident Ken Ude.

“In fairness to the citizens who are thinking about running now for council in Nov. 2017, I think it would be important to make that decision as early as possible for their sake and the city’s,” said Dale Pederson.

Four more residents also expressed support for the earliest possible determination by the council.

City Attorney Steve Dorsey addressed the council’s concerns regarding the election change’s impact on the city’s utility user tax, which expires in March, 2027, and public safety tax, which expires in June, 2020.

“Under Proposition 218, the city council has to hold an election on raising taxes or certain kinds of fees, at an election at which council members are elected, unless the city council, by a unanimous vote, declares that there’s a fiscal emergency, and then [the council] can call a special election,” Dorsey said.

Vice Mayor Richard Ward, who remained quiet during the conversation, rounded out the council’s discussion.

“I find it ironic that three councilmen who already voted them six extra months in office already, now have it in their power to extend their term yet another 12 months. It’s delicious,” Ward said, referring to the council’s decision to move its election from March to November after the city’s 2009 election.

The San Marino School Board decided two months ago to transition to even-numbered year elections beginning in Nov. 2018, which extends the terms of all sitting school board members.